Monday, 29 July 2013

New to Netflix UK - 29/07/13

 Not much to talk about this week.

Super 8 - A mysterious train crash sets off a chain of strange events in a small town prompting the sudden appearance of the military. Supposedly a love letter to the early Spielberg films and film-making in general, there's no denying that the film has its charm but while the plot may seem familiar, the story is well written, the acting is great and it features one of the best score Giacchino has written to this point.

Starship Troopers: Invasion - The Federation tracks down one of its ships which appears to have gone rogue only to find a new and menacing threat. Given the talent behind it, it's not as good as one would hope, with questionable dialogue and some dodgy character animations but the film is still better than the live action sequels (though not as good as Roughnecks) and shows promise for any future instalments.

Mako Mermaids - Sequel/spin-off to Aussie mermaid teen show "H2O: Just Add Water" where a new merman poses a threat to Mako Island. I have no idea what I've just written but early reviews seem to be somewhat positive for this show (while it's classed as Netflix Original, Netflix didn't actually make it, they just have exclusive broadcasting rights) and I imagine fans of the original will be enthusiastic about this one.

V/H/S - Horror Anthology with 5 individual segments involving a succubus, a stalker, an anomaly, paranormal happenings and a (literally) haunted house. One of the major come-backs to the anthology movies, the segment qualities vary from disappointing (Ti West's lacklustre 'Second Honeymoon') to down-right awesome ('10/31/98' by Radio Silence) but the film works on a whole and has enough gore thrills and cheap scares to keep horror aficionados content.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Documentary Sunday - Chasing Ice

Sunday's are lazy, so why not take the time to sit down, relax and open your mind to exciting new worlds of knowledge, intrigue and opinions.

Documentaries about climate change are a dime a dozen and I guess we have Mr Gore to thank for that. I'm not saying it isn't happening, far from it, but I still believe we don't have all the relevant facts about it resulting in people seeing a slight change in the ecosystem and immediately panicking, blaming global warming, conjuring up reams of complicated data to confuse others into thinking the situation is a lot worse than it really is. Then we get a film like this. Where we are literally seeing the changes before our very eyes.

The documentary follows James Balog, the renowned photographer and the Extreme Ice Survey, the most in-depth photographic study of glaciers and ice formations ever assembled, and tracks their discoveries over the course of a few years, including the laborious task of setting up the cameras, the various setbacks, and their overall discoveries. What it all culminates in is a very intriguing story of a man trying to show evidence of global warming and succeeding a lot more than the Vice-President ever did.

As can be imagined, the cinematography is stunning. The time-lapses are almost out of this world and would be wonderful to watch on endless repeats were they not also scary to watch. They also manage to (supposedly) capture ice movements that have never been caught on camera before, and witnessing them on a big screen with the sound cranked up is something else entirely.

But again, this film is more about the man behind the photos. We don't get much insight in his private life, other than he's probably never there, but we get a glimpse at his psyche and determination and even with extensive and multiple knee surgeries he continues to push his body to limits doctors would never even dream of encouraging.

Who Does it Appeal To?
Global warming enthusiasts or people who are still unsure. If the film does not convince you that something is wrong with the weather patterns then you are living in denial. It is also worth watching if you find vistas of ice breathtaking, as you will surely not be disappointed.

What to Take Away From It?
We need to do more to reduce our carbon footprint and help spread the message that global warming is really here. Also, icebergs are really scary to watch when they break.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Breaking Bad: Season 5, Part 2 - Coming to the UK sooner than you might think

It's been almost a complete year but fans of the immensely satisfying Meth-Lab drama will be pleased to know that Netflix is adding the final season 5 episodes for UK viewers 24 hours after their US broadcast (like with The Killing). That's pretty darn good.

The final 8 episodes will chronicle the final moments of the Walt/Jesse Methamphetamine Empire, and few are hoping for a happy ending.

Episode 9, "Blood Money", premières August 11th, so be prepared to jump onto Netflix on the 12th.

I will personally be waiting for them all to be available so I can indulge in one last Breaking Bad binge.

Monday, 22 July 2013

New to Netflix UK - 22/07/13

A couple of good new releases, plus a few that I missed when they came up a while back.

Lawless - Three brothers, responsible for providing their county with moonshine, clash heads with a corrupt law official during prohibition-era America. It's one of the better prohibition-era-set movies in a long long time, and the acting and cinematography are at the top of their game, but the grim nihilism and gratuitous violence may prove too much for some.

False Trail - A top police officer heads back to his own town after a brutal murder is committed convinced that the current suspect is not the main culprit. Sequel to the hugely successful 'The Hunters', the film doesn't quite reach the same heights but it is still evidence that Scandinavian thrillers a cut above the rest.

Samsara/Baraka - Visual documentaries which look at the human spirit in all its forms and faults and the relationship between man and the environment. They doesn't reach the same heights as Koyaanisquatsi (nothing ever does) but they are both still extremely sensory journeys that offer some of the most stunning photography/cinematography ever committed to film.

Ginger and Rosa - Two girls in early 60's London find their friendship put to the test following events shaped by the changing political climate. A well-thought-out drama that poses some tough questions about domestic life during the cold war and is bolstered by some terrific performances.

Rubberneck - An employee at a research facility finds his desire for a co-worker, with whom they shared a one-night stand, develop into something much more sinister. You wouldn't be wrong to dismiss it as self-indulgent but there's enough here to warrant a look in what is an effective indie-thriller.

Captain America: The First Avenger - The cult Marvel hero finds himself up against the sinister Red Skull who has in his possession a cube of unlimited power. One of the big surprises of the Avengers Phase One, the movie is a big throwback to the pulp-action movies of yore and a satisfying blockbuster in its own right.

A Fish Called Wanda - When the leader of a gang of thieves is arrested after a heist, the others try to find a way to pry the location of the loot from his lawyer. A very funny and clever farcical movie that features a stunning cast, with particular mention to Kevin Kline who unleashes one of the maddest characters ever in a crime movie.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

RIP Rescue Me on Netflix UK (a delayed obituary)

So I was pondering what to watch, promising my other half that I would introduce her to something pretty awesome when I said "How about a show about firefighters?"
She replied, "Isn't that kinda serious?"
"Yeh, but this one is special. It's also laugh out loud funny."
Know what show I'm talking about?

I came to the Rescue Me party a little too late, but then also at the right time in that I only started watching it after it ended. I read all the great reviews about the show and also the criticisms but then no one in the UK was showing it on TV (I'm not mentioning Sky, because they steal money from people) so I kinda left it alone.
Then along comes Netflix, who offer all 7 seasons to stream. I start the first episode and the rest is like a blur. I fell in love with the damn thing. The humour, the characters, the storyline...even when the series dragged on, I didn't feel like wanting to give up. And then it ended, and I moved on.
So now is it that when I want to come back to the bloomin' thing, bearing in mind that Netflix is meant to eliminate the need for physical DVD's, is it no longer available for streaming (since July 4th I believe).

Never mind, I'll just buy the DVD then. Oh wait, I can't. They only ever released the first three seasons in Region 2.

I'm against piracy and everything, but when the studios leave us no choice I see no reason why people shouldn't be allowed to resort to such measures. I would try and quote freedom of expression  and etc but I'll probably go of on a tangent and miss the point completely.

In any case, I miss this show. It's available on the US site, but for some reason I feel dirty watching it that way. I want to enjoy it knowing that other people in the UK are also able to enjoy it (or loathe it, by that their intention). Which is annoying because I already watched the first episode and I already remember why I loved it so much to begin with. I need my fix god-dammit!

Rescue Me was one of the most positive aspects of the whole Netflix experience. They brought us a show that we would otherwise have been unable to watch any other way (excluding illegally) and now they have taken it from us.

RIP Rescue Me, I hope they find it in their hearts to bring you back to us.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Pacific Rim - 3D Review (Is it worth it?)

This is not a review about the movie but rather a review about the 3D. For a full rundown on the film I'd advise checking out the pages of your local film critic as they have far more experience in telling you why you should/shouldn't like the movie. I'm only qualified to tell you how effective the 3D was.

[Note: Providing you have seen the latest trailers for the movie, the following won't contain any real spoilers. If you have however been keeping yourself in the dark, skip to the end verdict.]

Worth watching? Hell yes!
Seriously, if you have any urge to go and see see it, do. This is one of the most audacious blockbusters in a very long time that actually doesn't rot your brain cells. It's this generations Independence Day, right down to the inspirational speech. Go and see it, sit back, and marvel as your brain witnesses spectacles that only a childlike version of you could ever hope to imagine.

But do you want your robots and monsters three-dimensional?

The Good

Once again, for a post-converted movie, this is a damn good-looking 3D movie. Long corridors have depth, the environments feel big and the robots and creatures look stunningly real - the amazing CGI helps, but the 3D aspect enhances every crack and fracture these large behemoths possess.

As always seems to be the case with 3D movies, the 100% CGI'd scenes always look the best and in this case it was the brief moments we have in the Rift. It feels expansive and alive and a little bit too authentic.

The actual scenes inside the robots Jagers were also damn good eye-candy and you could literally believe you were in those suits of metal fighting giant creatures from another dimension.

Otherwise the movie just plays as a perfect 3D experience should. Del Toro was very much against 3D initially however he changed his mind due to studio pressure but it seems he has made sure that the conversion was the best they could manage and it seems to have paid off in spades.

The Bad

Del Toro's initial grudge against 3D was that it's hard to incorporate it properly when you have objects the size of building parading around the screen with any comparisons to size being the smaller objects (cars, trees, boats) and so the perception of depth is somewhat lost. While for the most part these scenes look fine, you do feel that the 3D didn't exactly grab you the same way as the other scenes. I imagine seeing this on a bigger screen (IMAX) might actually eliminate this problem.

Also some of the fight scenes, due to quick editing and moving camera shots, can be hard to focus on. This isn't a massive problem as most of the big action scenes are wide-angle shots, but I'm nit-picking problems so I'll include it anyway.

Also the scenes underwater were not as impressive as I would have hoped and felt a bit flat. I kinda expected more floaty things to remind me I'm watching it in 3D.

The Verdict

This film needs to be seen in 3D. It's a shame, as it will only really work on a big screen, but it does look pretty damn near perfect. For current standards at least. The robots are alive and every moving part within the film just feels like its actually there in the cinema with you and not on a screen.

So yes, do conform to the Hollywood 3D tax and throw that extra £1.50 at them. It's seriously worth it.

I saw this on a standard screen but I've already booked for the IMAX version which I can only imagine will be that much more awesome in 3D.

A Little Extra

Got the latest 'The Wolverine' trailer in 3D and it looked pretty good too. Better than I expected to anyway.
It looks to be another decent conversion job. Maybe Hollywood is learning.

New to Netflix UK - 15/07/13

Where the hell did all these TV shows come from? It will take a good month just to get through them...
On the plus side, a lot of obscure material from broadcast history is creeping into the catalogue so get ready for some nostalgic fun.

Orange is the New Black (TV) - A woman finds herself in prison to make up for her brief life of crime and has to survive the harsh environment and oddball inmates. It manages to exceed expectations, even when they were already set very high and the series is another successful hit for Netflix Originals, even if the sexual content may put a few viewers off.

Rome (TV) - Both series of the highly acclaimed series (and yes, it is the one with the violence/nudity) have been made available. The second series suffers from pacing problems but that was due to high production costs resulting in the series' cancellation and the writers wanted to tie up the story as best they could.

Dead Like Me (TV) - All episodes of this short lived fan-favourite show are available, which follows a group of grim reapers as they go about their daily business. It's from the same creator as Pushing Daisies so you can expect the same offbeat humour but well-fleshed (pun?) characters.

Whitechapel (TV) - The series follows a group of modern-day detectives trying to twart a Jack the Ripper copycat. It plays a little too much like Sherlock and the episodes vary in strength but you could do a lot worse in terms of criminal thrills.

Stargate: Atlantis (TV) - The complete series has been added of this spin-off of the original which sees the Stargate scientists stranded in a foreign system fighting an old and powerful enemy. SG-1 was solid sci-fi and while Atlantis doesn't live up to expectations, it is still mostly good fun (and way better than Universe).

Primeval (TV) - The first three seasons are up in this British show where a group of scientists tackle strange anomalies that are sending creatures from past and future into the present. I personally disliked this series a lot and never understood the love for it but the series has a lot of devoted fans who will defend it until their dying breath.

Sharpe (TV) - The two latest adventures of the popular character (Challenge and Peril) are up, which sees the soldier transitioned over to India. They aren't quite as good as the original 90's episodes but there's no denying Sharpe is still one of the greatest fictional characters in popular culture and the new episodes don't fail on ensuring that status.

The L Word (TV) - Cutting edge series that follows of a group of lesbians living in LA as they deal with day-to-day problems in their public and private lives. It's one of the few L/G/B shows out there, and there are a few stereotypes that people had issues with, but for the most part it is a really well made drama series.

My Hero (TV) - The complete series is available which follows the antics of an alien struggling with the basic concepts of life on earth. For the most part it is a decent sitcom, though episode quality does vary especially towards the later seasons.

Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire (TV) - A spoof of the TV fantasy genre with a reluctant freedom-fighter trying to overthrow the rule of an oppressive warlord. It's...odd...very odd...and probably not everyone's cup of tea...but I thought it was pretty hilarious at times.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - A young prince must clear his name of his father's murder and prevent the 'Dagger of Time' from falling into the wrong hands. From the description alone, this is a very very silly film (and lets forget it was ever related to the awesome game), however there is a 50/50 chance that the film will surprise you and completely charm your socks off...otherwise it will probably just annoy you.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) - A playboy millionaire who indulges in high-profile thefts for fun and the investigator out to get him find themselves the object of each others' affection. It has a lot more style than the remake, and McQueen is the true Mr Crown, but the movie doesn't feel to aged as well as it should have.

People Like Us - A revelation at his fathers funeral causes a man to rethink his own life choices as he embarks on a journey to reunite with an estranged sibling. It's a very simple drama trying too hard to be a complex emotional experience but the performances are good (if somewhat two-dimensional) and the film is still heart-warming in its own way.

There's also two fan-boy documentaries available: The Achievers, which looks at the Big Lebowski community, and Done the Impossible, which tracks the Firefly "Browncoats" community and their efforts to bring Serenity to fruition. Worth watching if you're devoted to either films.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


So, stuff has been thin on the blog recently, this is mostly due to holiday and being swamped with work.

Haven't made any 3D reviews lately. This is mostly due to getting around to seeing the films on the final weeks they are screening, making a review somewhat pointless. I do promise a Pacific Rim 3D review tomorrow.

Documentary Sunday will return next week after a two week hiatus.

Currently no new engineering news/posts. The problem with working in the industry is that you try to distance yourself as far away from work as possible in your free time, which doesn't help as this is meant to partly be an engineering blog. I will do my best to find great stories for the coming weeks.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

New to Netflix - Orange is the New Black

The latest offering from the Netflix Originals has been online now for just over a day and (no surprises) it's actually really good. Orange is the New Black follows a woman who's gone to prison for carrying drug money when she was younger and how she has to readjust to her new life.

Fans of Weeds will find the humour and drama a lot more grounded in reality this time around however there is still enough kookiness and laugh-out-loud moments that make it just as enjoyable. What I really like about the series is how each episode explores the backstory of each of the other inmates, allowing for us to connect to them on a much more personal level. Without this element I don't think the series will have had the same impact.

Those of you who are enjoying it will be pleased to hear that a second season is already in the works.

Once again Netflix have scored gold in their content. This is getting worrying as they will have to screw up sooner or later...

Monday, 8 July 2013

Orange is the New Black - A Netflix Original Series, Coming Soon

Given all the hype from their previous ventures into original programming (House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development Season 4), you would have thought that Netflix would have a whole page dedicated to their new upcoming attractions however this apparently is not the case. It was by pure chance I stumbled across the latest original series, Orange is the New Black, which already has its own page on the site.

The series is the latest from Weeds Creator Jenji Kohen and focuses on a suburban housewife, Piper Chapman, who suddenly finds herself behind bars and has to readjust her life. While you could argue that the series is a spin-off from Weeds (after all, this could be Nancy, seeing as how Piper is arrested for drug smuggling) the series still looks to be a whole lot of fun. As is typical with Kohen, there are a vast array of wild and kooky characters on display who are likely to provide a lot of the (unconventional?) humour to the series.

Check out the trailer here (NSFW due to language and nudity).

All 13 episodes will be available to everyone on July 11th.

New to Netflix UK - 08/07/13

Didn't find much up for this week, though there should be enough to carry through to next week.

Casino Jack - A lobbyist gets in way over his head when his methods become exceedingly grandiose causing his personal empire to collapse around him. Despite the intriguing (and true) story the film never reaches the heights it really should though it is kept watchable thanks to a solid performance from Spacey.

21 - A numerically gifted MIT student gets recruited into a team of card counters run by a professor who's looking for revenge against a casino boss. Another movie that takes a really cool (and again true) concept but fails to fully bring the material to life, the movie is still fun to watch and once again it's Mr Spacey who steals the show.

Comes a Bright Day - A teen, hoping to ask the girl at the jewellers out on a date, gets taken hostage after robbers storm the place. It's not the most well-put-together movie but there's a decent story here and the acting is convincing enough that makes this British thriller well worth your attention.

White Collar (TV) - A con-man is recruited by the FBI to help out with their white-collar crime division but he has an ulterior motive for joining. Seasons 2 and 3 have finally been added of this immensely enjoyable and stylish TV show.

Monday, 1 July 2013

New to Netflix UK - 01/07/13

It's a new month so what better way to start it than with some new movies to watch.

Holy Motors - Follows the life of a man over the course of a day as he undergoes a vast selection of different disguises, interacting with selected individuals who often require his services. One of the most surreal films of last year, Leos Carax's drama/fanatasy/whatever-the-hell-genre movie is a real blend of cinematic genius, stunning visuals and some severe head-scratching.
[NOTE: This is the uncensored version, unlike the one currently on the US site]

The God's Must be Crazy - When a coke bottle falls fro the sky, it upsets the way of life of a native African village and a man is tasked with destroying the object. Completely offbeat comedy that happens to be a lot more effective than half the stuff coming out of Hollywood today.

Run Lola Run - Lola has twenty minutes to find enough money to save her boyfriend from the local gangster, so can she do it? A well made movie that takes the 'what if' concept to a really creative level and with some thrilling results.

Calendar Girls - In order to raise money, a group of WI members organise a nude photo shoot and become unlikely media sensations. It's harmless and charming and benefits from some good laughs and a stellar cast.

Doom - Adapted from the game, a team of special ops soldiers investigate a remote Mars outpost and find only evil awaiting them. The film is pretty much hated by both critics and fans of the game, but there's an underlying sense of style to this movie that makes it (just) watchable, particularly the scene where they literally go first-person shooter on us.

Red Eye - A girl travelling on a late flight home discovers the person who she's seated next to has his own sinister agenda. Incredibly well made thriller that, thanks to a tight script and an excellent villain, strikes notes not seen since Mr Hitchcock passed away.